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Team Sheet

Salford City FC
1
Max Crocombe
2
Michael Nottingham
3
Ibou Touray
4
Lois Maynard
5
Carl Piergianni
Yellow card for Carl Piergianni
6
Liam Hogan (c)
7
Nick Haughton

Dudley '83

8
Gus Mafuta
Yellow card for Gus Mafuta
9
Mike Phenix
1 goals for Mike Phenix

Askew '64

10
Jack Redshaw

Beesley '83

11
Tom Walker
1 goals for Tom Walker Yellow card for Tom Walker
Harrogate Town
1
James Belshaw
2
Ryan Fallowfield
3
Louie Swain
4
Josh Falkingham
5
Terry Kennedy
6
Warren Burrell
7
George Thomson
Yellow card for George Thomson
8
Jack Emmett
9
Simon Ainge (c)
10
Dominic Knowles
1 goals for Dominic Knowles
11
Joe Leesley
Substitutes
12
Danny Livesey
14
Mark Shelton
15
Jake Beesley
16
Anthony Dudley
17
Josh Askew
Substitutes
12
Jordan Thewlis
13
Joe Cracknell
14
Mark Beck
15
Liam Kitching
16
Liam Agnew
Managers
Joint Manager - Anthony Johnson
Joint Manager - Bernard Morley
Managers
Manager - Simon Weaver
Match Officals
Referee - Leigh Doughty
Assistant Referee - Carl Rooney
Assistant Referee - Elliott Swallow

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Match
Report

MAGIC AMMIES GO ELEVEN CLEAR AT THE TOP

For weeks, and maybe months, this had looked like being a potentially critical fixture when it came to the National League North title race. The Ammies came out on top at the CNG Stadium by the odd goal in three back in September and they repeated the trick this afternoon to complete a double over their closest challengers and, perhaps, take a big step towards the National Division.

There were a couple of changes to the side that beat AFC Telford United last week with new signing Nick Haughton in for Mark Shelton and Mike Phenix replacing Anthony Dudley.

The playing surface at the Peninsula Stadium was playable but persistent rain over the last week meant that the going would be heavy. On a cold afternoon that slipped gradually to freezing the game got off to a cagey start, although both sides showed a willingness to get men forward when the chance allowed. The first sniff of a chance went the way of Town but Joe Leesley’s free-kick was competently claimed by home keeper Max Crocombe.

For Salford Mike Phenix won a seventh minute corner and when the set-piece was partially cleared Jack Redshaw had a go from the edge of the penalty area. The effort was blocked by a defender and despite the presence of a number of red-shirted forwards the loose ball was hastily cleared.

Harrogate are without doubt one of this division’s ‘footballing’ sides and they put together a nice move with nine minutes played. Louie Swain played a neat pass to the left for Jack Emmett whose nippy run for the line was followed by a low cross aimed towards the near post. Dominic Knowles was on the end of that one but the ball came at him quickly and he could only poke an effort harmlessly wide of the upright.

There was another chance the visitors as George Thomson waited for the ball to drop before hitting a volley that cannoned into Salford defender Carl Piergianni and away to safety.

Most of the early running had been made by Harrogate but it was the Ammies who drew first blood with fifteen minutes on the clock. Midfielder Nick Haughton, signed this week from League One Fleetwood Town, played a one-two with Jack Redshaw on the right then hit a low angled shot that James Belshaw had to push away to his right. PHENIX pounced onto the loose ball but could only slam a low shot into the keeper’s midriff, only to enoy a slice of luck as possession fell for him again. With Belshaw grounded and vitually helpless last season’s top scorer made no mistake this time around, converting from very close range to open the afternoon’s scoring.

Only Salford’s second first-half goal from their last seven home games but their supporters wouldn’t have to wait too long for the next. In the meantime Harrogate looked to strike back as quickly as possible and in the twentieth minute they won a free-kick about twenty-five yards out and right of centre. Thomson nudged the ball for Leesley to strike and his low drive was well saved by Crocombe, dropping down to his right.

Within another couple of minutes Town broke quickly, with Emmett passing to Simon Ainge who slid a ball out to the left for Leesley. Yellow and black shirts were arriving in the box but Leesley overhit a cross that was ushered to safety by a defender on the far side.

For Salford Redshaw threatened to break clear on goal only to be stopped in his tracks by a well-timed challenge from Warren Burrell on the edge of the penalty area. From the corner Michael Nottingham flicked the ball towards goal only for Belshaw to push the effort away to his left. The Ammies were getting on top and Nottingham dispossessed Ryan Fallowfield outside the Harrogate box before turning to left fly with a low twenty-two yarder, with Belshaw again forced into action this time getting down to his right in order to make a good save. The ball went loose and Redshaw passed back to Lois Maynard on the left-hand angle of the box who squared inside for Tom Walker to hit a low effort that was blocked.

In the twenty-fourth minute Phenix netted again after meeting a cross from the left at the far post but the assistant’s flag had been raised to indicate offside. A reprieve for Town but it would be all too brief as Salford scored their second of the afternoon just a couple of minutes later.

A trademark Nottingham gallop on the right was finished off by a low ball across the box, with Redshaw just failing to get a touch in the middle. WALKER arrived beyond the far post and had no such problems, smashing in a low shot that beat Belshaw at his near post.

The Ammies were in control but Harrogate again looked to peg them back as soon as they could. Just a couple of minutes after Walker’s first Salford goal Thomson pushed torwards the edge of the area, well left of centre to meet Nottingham’s headed clearance with a volley that wasn’t far wide of the far post.

Leesley hit an effort from distance over the bar after that and at the other end Nottingham’s pass into the box from the right found Gus Mafuta. Possession was promptly moved square for Walker but this time he could only lift an angled effort over the crossbar.

The Ammies were pressing again and Phenix drilled into the six-yard box from the right-hand angle only for Terry Kennedy to somehow lift the ball over the bar as Redshaw waited to pounce. Haughton delivered the corner from the right with Piergianni getting in a looping fifteen yard header that Belshaw gathered without too much trouble.

Harrogate would finish the half with plenty of possession and Knowles rolled a pass to the left for Leesley who cut inside before hitting a low effort wide of the far post. In the forty-second minute Leesley was involved again, this time crossing from the left towards the far post where Ainge got in a very close range header. It seemed as if Harrogate would halve Salford’s advantage but Crocombe had tracked the ball was able – just about – to palm the ball away to safety.

The last chance of an entertaining first half went the way of Salford as Phenix and Redshaw combined before the latter had a shot that was blocked.

HALF TIME: SALFORD CITY 2 HARROGATE TOWN 0

A very impressive first half for the Ammies but it was obvious from the start of the second that they would have some more defensive work to do. Within three minutes of the restart the busy Josh Falkingham lofted a cross-field ball from the left with possession falling for Knowles on the far side. A little twist inside seemed to open up a route to goal for the Harrogate striker but he stumbled at the last moment with insult added to injury as he was then penalised for handball.

A less than auspicious start to Harrogate’s attempted revival but they did better within another minute of play. Belshaw’s long pass from the right-back position was deftly controlled by Ainge, back to goal, and he rolled the ball out wide for Thomson on the right. The cross was a very decent one but Falkingham could only direct a header yards wide of Crocombe’s left-hand post.

Harrogate were keeping possession well although a dogged Salford defence was largely holding them at arm’s length. That almost changed on the fifty-fourth minute when Leesley got away from Nottingham on the left before dropping a cross towards the far post. Ainge was on the end of it but the ball spun off the top of his head and out for a throw-in. This time Salford managed to counter but after getting clear of his marker wide on the left Phenix’s touch was heavy, with Belshaw taking advantage as he advanced quickly to collect the ball.

Piergianni and Thomson were both cautioned ten minutes into the second half and from that point this vital game would steadily grow in intensity. Harrogate were still calling the shots and after a scramble inside Salford’s area Knowles hit an effort that seemed destined for the back of the net until Crocombe managed to adjust his position and push the ball away. A cross came in almost immediately from the left but Thomson could get no direction on a header that drifted yards wide of the far stick.

Leesley was becoming more and more influential and his cross to the far post from the left was expertly dealt with by Liam Hogan as Town strikers closed in.

The Ammies were being pressed back and their stalwart defensive work was undone by a sixty-third minute loss of concentration. Harrogate were awarded a free-kick, deep on the right, with Leesley lofting a delivery into the right-hand side of the box. There were red shirts aplenty in attendance yet KNOWLEShad the space and time to place a header from ten yards between Crocombe and his left-hand post.

A goal that had probably been coming and the afternoon’s points were now very much up for grabs. Salford replaced Phenix with Josh Askew in the aftermath of Town’s goal and the balance of this fascinating game began to shift. The Ammies could no longer afford to sit deep and invite Harrogate on but adapted well and were soon looking to re-establish that two goal cushion.

A corner was won on the right but Maynard was leaning backwards as he met Walker’s delivery and the ball dropped wide of the far post. At this stage Harrogate were still seeing more of the ball but their attacks were carrying noticeably less menace but their territorial dominance was fading fast.

With twenty minutes left Walker’s corner from the right fell for Redshaw on the edge of the box but he couldn’t quite get the ball under control. Possession dropped for Haughton, outside the area and right-of-centre but his firmly hit effort spun off a defender before dropping gently into the waiting arms of Belshaw. Soon after that Hogan intercepted deep inside of his own half then set off on a driving forward run. With defenders retreating Salford’s skipper decided to have a go but from thirty yards out couldn’t keep the effort down.

The Ammies were probing for openings and Ibou Touray’s pass found Walker who turned, left-of-centre, to hit a shot that deflected off Burrell and behind. With sixteen minutes to play Piegianni nicked possession from under Leesley’s nose, tight to the touchline on the right. The subsequent cross was decent too but Hogan’s header dropped wide of the target.

With fifteen minutes left Walker found Askew on the left but the subsitute’s powerfully hit shot deflected off a Harrogate defender and behind for yet another corner kick.

A good spell for Salford who had drawn the sting from their opponents as well as getting men forward to create chances for themselves. Town were still liable to dangerous however and Fallowfield’s cross was met by Ainge but he was under pressure and could only get in a header that rolled through to Crocombe.

A ball down the right was pursued into the area by Knowles but Crocombe had anticipated the danger and was out quickly to smother.

Only scraps for Town for a while but they put together something better with nine minutes left when Leesley crossed from the left. Ainge headed down and inside but Hogan was in place to block Knowles’s fifteen yard snapshot.

The Ammies brought on Anthony Dudley and Jake Beesley for Redshaw and Haughton with seven minutes to play and by that point Harrogate seemed to be running out if time and ideas. Leesley’s corner was cleared back out to him on the right but the shot on goal was wild and high, dropping out of play on the far side for a throw-in.

Salford were minutes away from a very big win and could have spared their supporters late nerves with by taking a clear chance in the eighty-sixth minute. Askew’s pace was causing problems and here he escaped the attentions of Fallowfield, out wide on the halfway line. A surging run up the left followed before a ball inside to Dudley who helped possession of for Walker on the right. This had been an impressive afternoon for the former Bolton Wanderers man and he could have capped it with a second goal as he cut inside before letting fly with a rising shot that cleared the crossbar.

What would be Town’s final opportunity of the afternoon presented itself two minutes from time but Thomson’s shot was blocked by Hogan - Salford’s captain leading by example as he had throughout the game. At the other end Dudley’s effort on goal was blocked by Kennedy and a follow-up attempt suffered the same fate.

The travelling supporters behind Crocombe’s goal were encouraged when five minutes of time were indicated but Salford were not going to let the points slip now. Town could not make that extra time count and the final whistle was enthusiastically celebrated by most of those in the stands and on the terraces.

SALFORD CITY 2 HARROGATE TOWN 1

A win that opens up an eleven point lead at the top of the National League North with a touch over a third of the season left to play. The players and coaching staff deserve immense credit for the way they have emerged from that tricky festive period to record three straight wins from a tough sequence of games.

Recent recruits have proved impressive too, with Tom Walker already settling in to good effect and Nick Haughton added to an already strong squad during the week. These two have injected skill and guile into the mix and will surely go from strength to strength over what remains of the campaign.

The defence has shown signs of settling back into the sort of mean form that frustrated a string of opponents during the first half of the season and against one of the best attacking teams in the league today they performed very well as a unit.

The first half performance has been labelled ‘outstanding’ and considering the strength of the opposition that’s fair comment. Harrogate will doubtless think their second half showing may have merited a point but analysis of the game shows that even after the break Salford created as many – if not more – chances than their opponents.

This win was all about strength – physical and mental – resilience and concentration, with a liberal dash of flair and skill chucked in as well. It’s a fair old combination and although the job is not yet done – far from it - a win at Brackley Town next Saturday would mark another big step towards a third promotion in four years.

Football is an odd game and there could be banana skins lying in wait but it cannot be denied that every other team in this division would swap places with us in a shot. With that mid-season blip apparently over, who would bet against the Ammies now?

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